COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh – April 23, 2021 ─ In response to efforts by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Child Labor Improvements in Bangladesh (CLIMB) project, implemented by Winrock International in collaboration with local partners, the Government of Bangladesh has announced it is prioritizing the elimination of child labor in the Dried Fish Sector (DFS).
On March 14, 2021, the government revised its draft “National Plan of Action to Eliminate Child Labour (2021-2025)” to include child labor in the DFS, and the Ministry of Labour and Employment has included such work on its “Proposed Worst Forms of Child Labour List” on its website, making elimination of child labor in the industry a matter of national policy.
“Adding the DFS to the National Plan of Action is a critical step that will enable both government and civil society organizations to devote more resources to support economically vulnerable children and families – those who are the most susceptible to becoming trapped in hazardous working conditions,” said Martha Saldinger, Technical Director of Human Rights, Education and Empowerment at Winrock International, which has implemented CLIMB in Bangladesh since 2017.
The CLIMB project works in coastal southeastern Bangladesh to address harmful child labor practices in the country’s economically important DFS, which employs thousands of child laborers, often in dangerous conditions.
To inform project activities and build awareness of the scope and impact of child labor practices on children’s health and vulnerable communities, CLIMB partnered with a local research organization comprised of economics professors from the University of Chittagong. The researchers’ findings measured the scope and severity of the conditions faced by child workers, including forced labor, physical and sexual abuse, and widespread physical and emotional health issues.
To spark government action and draw local and national attention to the protection and support of children engaged in the DFS, CLIMB used data-based evidence to strengthen the capacity of local civil society organizations to work collaboratively and with communities to build awareness of the conditions and dangers faced by child laborers. CLIMB and partners also helped to link vulnerable families to alternative livelihood programs, schools, vocational training, and health and legal services.
Zaman Kahn, CLIMB’s project director in Cox’s Bazar, applauded the government’s action. “Without inclusion of the DFS in the National Plan of Action or on the official list of hazardous work for children, it would be challenging to nationally scale the work begun by CLIMB and local partners,” Kahn said. “Our work with partners and the National Child Welfare Council has directly contributed to this extremely positive move by the Government of Bangladesh.”
Through CLIMB, Winrock will continue to support safe, alternative livelihood opportunities for communities in need, engaging government, local and international partners to ensure that children’s rights are protected.